What Business Licenses and Permits are Needed in Wisconsin?

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Starting a business in Wisconsin will mean potentially registering with a number of federal, state and local agencies.  Let’s take a look at common licenses and permits a business will register for in Wisconsin.

Business License – There is no general state of Wisconsin business license, however many cities require businesses to be licensed in order to operate. Rules for business registration vary depending on location and what the business does.  Below are a few cities that have licensing requirements. 

Milwaukee – Certain businesses operating in the city limits of Milwaukee need to obtain a business license. A few businesses required to register include food dealers, limo services, pawnbrokers, and tattoo studios. 

Madison Certain businesses such as bicycle dealers, tattoo parlors, secondhand dealers and others operating in the city limits of Madison are required to obtain a business license from the City Clerk’s Office.

Green Bay – Some businesses will need to obtain a business license in Green Bay such as junk dealers, businesses selling alcohol, mobile food vendors, tree trimmers and more.

KenoshaBusiness registration is required for businesses operating in Kenosha such as gas stations, dog kennels, massage studios, towing services and more.

Racine – The City Clerk issues business licenses and permits for billiard halls, bowling alleys, bars and more.

Employer Identification Number (EIN) – Many businesses will register with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for an EIN or Employer Identification Number.  The EIN is the business equivalent for a Social Security Number for an individual.  Corporations, Limited Liability Companies, Partnerships and Sole Proprietorships with employees will all need to register for one. Sole Proprietorships without employees can use the owner’s Social Security Number. 

There is no cost for an EIN and it only takes a few minutes to get.

Learn how to apply for an EIN.

Wisconsin Seller’s Permit – Every individual, partnership, corporation, or other organization making retail sales, leases, or rentals of tangible personal property or taxable services in Wisconsin must register for a Wisconsin Seller’s Permit from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

Sales Tax Exemption Certificate – Businesses purchasing merchandise to resell will usually want to obtain a Wisconsin Sales Tax Exemption Certificate in order to not pay sales tax for merchandise that is being resold to customers.

Professional License – A variety of professions in the state are regulated and need to be registered before offering certain services.  A few common professions that require licensing in Wisconsin include; barbers, home inspectors, interior designers, manicurists and many more.   Additional information, fees and licensing requirements for professions in Wisconsin are available from the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services.

In addition to professional licenses from the Department of Safety and Professional Services, businesses in a variety of industries such as food establishments, daycares, and salvage yards also require licensing.

Trade Name Registration – While not a business license, it’s common for Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships operating under a name that is different from the full name of the owner(s) to register for a Trade Name (also known as a Doing Business As or DBA) with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.

These are a few of the most common business licenses, but there are way too many licenses and permits in Wisconsin for us to keep track of. Before starting your business, check with the City Hall, County Clerk, Chamber of Commerce and/or Economic Developer in your area to get more information regarding business licensing.  Additionally, there are companies like IncFile or CorpNet that can do the research to ensure you have the proper federal, state and local licenses.